Failing doesn't always mean you didn't succeed

Why failure isn't the opposite of success

Failure is often viewed as the opposite of success.

It is defined as falling short of an identified goal, as a lack of prescribed achievement, and as such, it is often perceived as a black and white issue - if you don't succeed, then by definition, you fail.

However, it's often not this simple.

I bring this up because I participated in my first junior moot on the weekend, which is like a mock trial for law students.

We were given a case a few weeks ago and we had to research caselaw and legislation to develop arguments for both sides of the case, in preparation for presentation in front of 'judges' on the day.

When I was first contemplating studying law, the idea of mooting filled me with terror.

I wasn't sure if it was going to be mandatory to participate in one at the time and the thought of having to stand up and present a case in front of actual people made me metaphorically shake in my boots.

However, after two years of study, I found myself excited by the prospect.

My family will tell you that I absolutely love a good argument, so I guess it was inevitable that I would find myself at this point in my law studies.

My mooting partners and I worked hard to build a convincing argument.

We spent hours crafting the written submission and then putting together our oral arguments, followed by developing case summaries and proactive rebuttal arguments.

On the day, we got dressed up in our lawyer suits, cleaned our glasses and made an effort with our hair to look the part.

We delivered our arguments, and received some really great feedback, mixed in with some areas for improvement, just like everyone else.

But our team came in last out of three teams. We didn't even make it to the final.

I was surprised by how much this felt like a sucker-punch to the gut.

We were told that the scores were all really close, so much so that all three of the mooting teams should really be in the final (and the other teams did an amazing job and had worked just as hard), but obviously, that can't happen, so they had to make a choice.

We didn't achieve our goal of winning. That meant we failed. Right?

It certainly felt so.

After the natural high of doing the moot, arguing our case, being able to answer the curly questions interjected by the judges as we went through our arguments, and feeling like we'd really represented our 'client' well, it was really anticlimactic to find ourselves spectators for the final.

I spent the rest of the afternoon unable to shake the pity party feeling, the 'meh' of not reaching a goal, which also annoyed me as I was proud of the teams who had won the day - they really represented well.

I felt like I'd failed. And technically, I guess, I had.

But this got me thinking about failure in general.

I think it can really be considered to be subjective in many cases, and often depends on how you perceive your goals.

If winning was my only goal in the moot, then sure, I can say I failed.

But, if I also wanted to experience a moot and all that entailed, face a fear about the activity, learn how to rebut legal arguments on the fly, foster relationships with others also interested in law and mooting, and gain some feedback in how I can improve my approach to it, then I achieved all of those goals.

Failure isn't always black and white. And it's rarely the opposite of success.

No one goes through life without experiencing failure or disappointment in their lives.

It's okay to feel disappointed, but this needs to fuel our desire to be better and do better and learn from these experiences.

John C Maxwell said, "Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn," and he couldn't have been more right.

Feeling like we've failed at something can become a deterrent to trying again.

We can trap ourselves into feeling like this 'isn't for us' and this is the greatest tragedy of the concept of failure.

Michael Jordan has missed more than 9000 shots in his career and lost almost 300 games.

He says that he has failed over and over again in his life, and that is why he succeeds.

Failure isn't the opposite to success, it's a part of the road towards it.

This story Why failure isn't the opposite of success first appeared on The Canberra Times.